- Young people hold up signs and march in the Youth Climate Strike in Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 1.
- Lauren Frias/Business Insider
- Climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke to crowd outside Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, calling out the role of the climate crisis in California wildfires and condemning inaction against it.
- “I visited Paradise in California, and I met with survivors who showed me around the devastation,” she said to the crowd. “Street after street with no houses left. I heard heartbreaking stories. Eighteen-thousand buildings were destroyed, and at least 86 people died.”
- The young activist said that the onus is placed upon the youth to save the environment if older generations continue to fail to act on the climate crisis.
- Despite touting a number of green environmental policies, California remains one of the biggest oil producers in the country, causing poor air quality in many populated cities.
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“Today in California, we can see the wildfires happening just around the corner, wildfires that are being intensified by the climate crisis,” climate activist Greta Thunberg said to a large crowd gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall on Friday.
The 16-year-old from Sweden has been touring North America since August and has become the face of youth activism in the fight to combat climate change, visiting the US, Canada, and Mexico.
During her stop in Los Angeles, she discussed the role of climate change in California’s devastating wildfires – wildfires that are currently burning across the state – and condemning inaction against it.
The night prior, the Maria Fire sprung up in Ventura County up the coast, northwest of Los Angeles County, and quickly spread. Earlier that week, the 74%-contained Getty Fire forced evacuations in Los Angeles, and burned 10 residences. In Northern California, the Kincade Fire has burned through more than 77,000 acres and is 70% contained.
Thunberg spoke at the Youth Climate Strike in Los Angeles, which was organized to protest fossil fuel and oil production in the state. Despite touting a number of environmental policies, California remains one of the biggest oil producers in the country, which leads to negative effects, like poor air quality, in many populated cities.
At the rally, Thunberg described her visit to Paradise, California, which was ravaged by the Camp fire in 2018, taking numerous lives and destroying thousands of buildings. The Camp fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.
“I visited Paradise in California, and I met with survivors who showed me around the devastation,” she said to the crowd. “Street after street with no houses left. I heard heartbreaking stories. Eighteen-thousand buildings were destroyed, and at least 86 people died.”
According to a release, the strike was organized to “uplift three core demands for Governor Newsom around California’s fossil fuel production”:
- Roll out a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer to protect frontline communities;
- Stop issuing any new fossil fuel permits to protect our climate future; and
- Drop existing oil production with a just transition to a clean energy economy.
The pollution that fuels the climate crisis is also affecting people’s day-to-day lives. Youth activist Kevin Patel, 19, said he developed heart palpitations caused by the smog in Los Angeles when he was in fifth grade, and he has dedicated much of his time to raising awareness and promoting action to solve the climate crisis ever since.
“It was a huge factor why I got involved in the climate crisis, because I knew that if I don’t act, if I don’t share my story, then how are other others in my community going to be aware of what’s going on and how they’re being affected as well?” Patel told Insider.
- Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a march and rally at the Youth Climate Strike in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 1, 2019.
- Mike Blake/Reuters
Youth activist Cemre Gonen, 17, came down on a bus to Los Angeles from the Bay Area to assist in organizing the Youth Climate Strike in LA. She echoed Patel’s sentiment on raising awareness, more notably in adults and people of power.
“I hope that power-holders are held accountable for their roles in causing the climate crisis,” Gonen wrote in an email to Insider. “I hope that adults let go of their fear for progress, and take necessary action to save life as we know it.”
The onus has been placed upon the youth to save the environment if older generations continue to fail to act, Thunberg said.
“The older generations are failing us. They are failing future generations,” she said. “But future generations do not have voice, and the biosphere doesn’t have a voice.”
“So we will be the voice that speaks up for them. We will be the voice that speaks up for ourselves,” Thunberg continued.
Gonen wrote in the email that it is easy to lose hope with the current state of the climate crisis, but she said she takes her fear for the future to keep her motivated to make a difference.
“My generation literally has climate anxiety because we understand the gravity of this issue. So it is definitely easy to lose hope sometimes, especially when adults refuse to act, in fear of change,” Gonen in the email. “However, I channel that frustration, anger, and disappointment into my work and use it to fuel my activism. I believe in us and the work that youth like me are doing.”
“We are the hope,” she continued, “and I believe that our society can change, because we have to.”